It’s impossible to ignore the impact DJs are having right now on the Las Vegas nightlife scene, with multimillion-dollar stages, interactive performance schemes and even entire nightclubs being constructed around their contributions. Somewhat obscured by the blinding light radiated by these shiny celebrities are the individual and collective influences of the ones who were doing it before DJing was an industry—before many of today’s top celebrity DJs were even born. These pioneers laid the foundation for today’s scene, and they have a few wise words for their descendants and the masses who follow them.
Photos by Jon Estrada.
REAL NAME: Frank Anobile.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1979.
THEN: Ushered the first nightclub into a Las Vegas Strip casino as the program director for Studio 54 from 1997-2008. Also prominent at the Brewery and Utopia.
NOW: Produced a Billboard No. 1, “Oh, Mama, Hey” in March with Chris Cox and featuring Crystal Waters. Producing music and throwing parties at the Palms, including Rain Resurrection.
ON THE PAST: “I was pitching nightclubs to hotels in the late ’70s. I met with so many presidents, and they laughed at me and told me, ‘It’ll never happen, kid. We’ll never put our gaming and liquor licenses on the line for a stupid party.’”
ON THE PRESENT: “The scene is finally oversaturated. There’s a lack of creativity in huge raves. Everybody’s cookie-cutting themselves. It’s all about the bottom line, and it’s gonna hurt the overall creative and artistic aspect of nightlife.”
ON THE FUTURE: “Money will be spent smarter on bigger artists who are actually making the records along the lines of the Justin Timberlakes and the Ushers. We’re gonna see more of that in clubs rather than concerts. Instead of restaurants and other venues turning into nightlife, it’s gonna be shows morphing into nightlife.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAM: “More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp & Roger.
DJ R.O.B. (Right On Beat)
REAL NAME: Robert Hathcock.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1981.
THEN: Music director and head DJ for nine years at Rain; producer with two gold records for local artist Dino Esposito on “Summergirls” and “I Like It,” and a platinum record for Enrique Iglesias’ “Escape.” Also seen and heard as a DJ/promoter at Utopia and the Shark Club.
NOW: Launching DJ R.O.B. & the Funk All Stars, a live band/DJ hybrid, at the Access Showroom in Aliante Station.
ON THE PAST: “We would go to ballrooms and do dances—you could take a party and put it anywhere, and people came because it was all about the music. We had to rent the biggest ballroom we could and throw out every table and chair and put it in the back lot, because it was all about getting the biggest dance floor.”
ON THE PRESENT: “Now, it’s all about VIPs, being seen and name dropping, or telling your friends you sat next to Paris Hilton, and we went to go see this DJ who’s got a big name. Square footage of these nightclubs is getting bigger and the dance floor is getting smaller.”
ON THE FUTURE: “This thing is going to kind of peter out with the major nightclubs and the major names and EDM; people are going to get back to the music and back to the fun.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAMS: “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash.
REAL NAME: Rory McAlister.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1984.
THEN: The longest-running radio DJ in Las Vegas, from 1984-2012; brought house music to Las Vegas on KCEP 88.1-FM in 1984; started Las Vegas Record Systems, a DJ hub that has deployed the likes of Dave Fogg and Warren Peace; resident DJ at Uptown and Bogies, and guest DJ at Lipstick, Steppin Out, Jubilation and the Shark Club.
NOW: Recently did a stint with iHeartRadio and as program director for Master of the Mix in conjunction with the VH1 reality show.
ON THE PAST: “Some clubs were too mainstream and tourist oriented—they didn’t seem to have a direct connection with the streets and street culture. Coming from Chicago, it was all about street culture; the house movement was really big. From the East Coast, the whole hip-hop movement was starting to evolve as well.”
ON THE PRESENT: “We’re in a dance-music cycle right now. The majority of trends are going toward EDM and dance-oriented music. If you listen to mainstream media, you can feel the whole evolution of trends in regard to commercials being more dance- and music-driven: They’re using the music of the streets to sell products.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAMS: “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C&C Music Factory, and “I’ve Got the Power” by Snap.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1985.
THEN & NOW: An ongoing remix career that includes 45 Billboard No. 1s; a Grammy nomination for producing Cher (“Love One Another,” Best Dance Recording, 2004); DJ partner of Perry Farrell and Giorgio Moroder; on-air DJ at KUNV 91.5-FM. Also performed at Chaz, Botany’s, the Sports Pub and the Palladium.
ON THE PAST: “Vegas was really fun back in the day; there was this lawlessness to it. There were no rules, because we were just kind of making it up as it was happening, and there was a real sense of community with all of us.”
ON THE PRESENT: “The amount that some of the DJs are getting paid is ridiculous for what they’re actually doing. And the scene has lost a lot of its soul. People are partying because they’re told that’s the place to be, and that’s the DJ they’re supposed to like, versus whether or not they’re actually having a great time.”
ON THE FUTURE: “In 10 years, essentially everyone on the planet will be a DJ.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAMS: “Good Life” by Inner City and “Pump the Volume” by M.A.R.S.
REAL NAME: Matthew Tuttle.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1986.
THEN: On-air talent for KUNV 91.5 for eight years, and has been DJing Burning Man since 1999. Also, a leading club-restaurant resident DJ, with seven years at Little Buddha and 3½ years at Tao and Lavo restaurants. (Fun fact: His first restaurant DJ gig was at Dragonfly Sushi in Washington, D.C., 1999-2002, while he worked as Senator Harry Reid’s webmaster).
NOW: Hakkasan restaurant music manager and resident DJ.
ON THE PAST: “Vegas was a big-city small town. For as big as the rave scene got in the ’90s—4,000 or 5,000 people—the amazing thing was that it was pretty small. Collectively, maybe 10 promoters helped get it to that stage and two handfuls of DJs really created that scene.”
ON THE PRESENT: “Vegas has come into its own as far as being an international destination with all the nightclubs. But it’s also come back into its own as far as being this major raving destination with Electric Daisy Carnival.”
ON THE FUTURE: “DJing is becoming more accessible, more user-friendly as far as the technology side—not only producing the music but DJing as well.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAM: “Jam on It” by Newcleus.
REAL NAME: Warren White.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1987.
THEN: National nightlife music trendsetter; brought hip-hop to the Strip at Ra; early mash-ups influencer; creator of the big-room house/hip-hop hybrid at XS along with Dave Fogg; entrepreneur behind HipHopSite.com and DirectMusicService.com.
NOW: Music director and resident DJ at XS and Tryst. Afrojack has called Warren Peace the No. 1 resident DJ in the world.
ON THE PAST: “It was all about the underground. Casinos thought [nightclubs] would take people from the blackjack tables, so no casino was embracing clubs back in the day.”
ON THE PRESENT: “You can’t build a hotel without thinking of what your nightclub is going to be and who’s gonna run it. It’s such a revenue maker that it’s a must-have.”
ON THE FUTURE: “DJ-wise, in major clubs, everything is going to a progressive, open format. General business-wise, you’re going to see clubs go for niche markets: Instead of everyone trying to compete for the same clientele, everyone will just have to take pieces from it.”
FAVORITE THROWBACK JAM: “Planet Rock” by Soulsonic Force.
LAS VEGAS DJ DEBUT: 1988.
THEN: Resident DJ at Baby’s and Ra, where he was also talent buyer/music director. Founded an underground party called Enter the Dragon, one of Las Vegas’ first touring raves.
NOW: Opened XS as the music director and started the hip-hop-meets-house programming trend with Warren Peace. Still a producer, consultant and resident DJ at XS and Tryst in Wynn and at Insert Coin(s).
ON THE PAST: “In the early ’90s, there was no underground nightlife scene comparable to anything that was going on in L.A., London or New York. Later in the ’90s, when that was happening in Vegas, it set up the idea of doing underground parties and raves. That was an important time—the music we were playing and a core group of kids were really the only kind of culture that we had.”
ON THE PRESENT: “There’s an emphasis on talent, hype and money. What’s desirable now is someone who produces music without necessarily being a club DJ, and there’s definitely a distinct difference between those two. You essentially no longer have club DJs headlining Vegas nightclubs; you have producers and artists headlining them.”
ON THE FUTURE: “Things are cyclical. There’s going to be a return to DJs as a relevant and well-respected profession again.”